Sunday night, 3:48 am, 49th and Broadway. A twenty-something, good-looking female comes out of the Playwrights Tavern, gets in the cab, and we are headed for 79th between West End and Riverside. She has a nice, friendly space about her and it would be easy to have a conversation with her, but, as is the case so often these days, she is preoccupied with a cell phone conversation that was already in progress before she got in the taxi. Some kind of a late-night emergency is underway and she asks me in a polite way to get her there as quickly as possible.
There is virtually no traffic at this time of the night and I know where the green lights are, so within four minutes we have shot up the Henry Hudson Parkway to the 79th Street exit and have arrived at her desintation. But she directs me not to turn off the meter - another passenger is going to join us and then we will be proceeding to 88th Street between Columbus and Central Park West. Within a minute her friend, another twenty-something female, comes running out of an apartment building, crosses 79th Street, and jumps in the taxi.
Of course my curiosity has been aroused and I am wondering what the emergency is all about. I'm thinking it's most likely a romantic problem. The second girl is probably having boyfriend troubles and needs a shoulder to cry on. Or maybe it's a family crisis. Maybe she just got a phone call from her mother in San Diego and learned that her brother was in a car accident. Or maybe her dog is sick and she needs to get him to a vet. No, that couldn't be it - she doesn't have a dog with her. Maybe she realized she doesn't have any decent clothes to wear to work the next day and she wants to borrow something from her friend. No, who the hell would do that at 3:48 in the morning?
I find myself in full fly-on-the-wall mode with the radio off and my ears straining to hear what they're talking about (also known as "eavesdropping"). I have a feeling this is going to be a good one. And it is. The second girl, it turns out, was awakened from a deep sleep by something moving under her pillow and now is afraid to stay in her own apartment. So she's going over to her friend's place to spend the rest of the night. What was under her pillow?
She goes on to say that she's not sure if there's one mouse or more than one mouse but her attempts to kill it, or them, with mouse traps coated with peanut butter and chocolate syrup have failed. And now she's too freaked out to stay there.
When we arrive at 88th Street I tell them I couldn't help overhearing their conversation (which was fine with them) and I make the obvious suggestion: get a cat! The second girl says that, in fact, she is planning on "borrowing" the cat of another friend of hers. Which gets me thinking this could be a brilliant business idea - "Rent-A-Cat". Hmmm....
Monday night, 11:15 pm, Empire State Building. two young guys come out of the Empire State Building on 33rd and 5th, jump in the cab, and we are off to Greenwich Village. They turn out to be from Sweden and are in search of a bar I had never heard of, The Spotted Pig, at Greenwich Avenue and 11th Street. They tell me it was recommended to them by a customs agent at the airport which sounded like a weird source of information to me so I joke that it's probably a set-up for a drug bust. They wonder if I'm familiar with a band that's supposed to be playing there but I tell them my usual answer to the subject of popular music which is that I haven't been aware of anything new since the Beatles broke up. And, in fact, I'm still waiting for the Beatles to get back together again.
Well, I said the magic words. They are Beatles fans, big time. One of them is actually wearing a Beatles t-shirt and the other has a very cool Beatles belt on. AND they are members of a rock band called Like A John Needs A Yoko! I am blown away. How refreshing it is to meet a couple of guys who are about 30 years younger than I am and who know more about Beatles music than I do!
Their names are Jon (on the left) and Andy. You can hear some of their music if you click onto their link, above. I tell them my John Lennon stories (click on the "John Lennon" label below to read it) and a May Pang story I happen to have and they are truly a receptive audience.
It's too bad these guys are over twenty-one. I want to adopt them.
Tuesday night, 9:35 pm, 52nd and Broadway. Two thirty-something fellows and a sixty-ish woman, all from the U.K., squeeze into the back seat and are en route to the Marriott hotel in Brooklyn Heights. One of the gentlemen is the stage manager of a Shakespeare company that is performing The Taming of the Shrew at B.A.M. (the Brooklyn Academy of Music). We engage in a lively conversation about the show, his job, and the Bard, but it is something that the lady says that amazes me.
She mentions that she is from Wales but has never been to London.
I have been to London. Twice. And she has been to New York. But never to London. I didn't delve into how that could be - it seems incredible to me - but I found it to be fascinating. And it reminded me of another fare I had many years ago.
In 1986 I picked up a woman who was in her thirties who was accompanied by her mother, who was probably close to seventy. The daughter lived and worked in the city and was playing tour guide hostess for her mom, who was seeing New York for the very first time. What amazed me was that Mom was from New Hampshire, only a five or six hour drive away.
How could someone live their entire life so close to the greatest American city, the center of the universe, so to speak, and never think it worthwhile enough to come see it? I asked her why she had decided to come now.
"To see Liberace!" she said.
Indeed, the great showman was playing at Radio City Music Hall at the time. And it turned out to be his last appearance in New York, as he died a year later.
Timing is everything.
Click here for Pictures From A Taxi.